The City of Portland initiated the Residential Infill Project (RIP) to enable the development of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Air B-and-B type units on properties zoned “exclusively” for single-family homes. The logic was that this zoning was intentionally discriminatory. Although it does prevent the development of duplexes and other multi-unit buildings, it is arguable that it was specifically to discriminate against residents without the means to own or rent a single-family home on a single lot.
By Sue Stringer and Mike Warwick
Do you recognize this building? In the past years the ENA Board has talked about getting a mural or some art installed on this wall. It is where NE Russell Street ends on Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. Baileywick Properties is working on a new art installation on the building. Stay tuned for more details in the next issue.
Also, in our next issue, we will have a map of all the art and murals in the neighborhood. If you have a favorite mural, we’d like it if you could email a photo and location or just the intersection to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add it to the map.
There isn’t anything about the building at 2021-2025 NE Rodney to indicate it is unconventional, but there is. It is the way the current owners financed its purchase for an affordable price and how that good fortune will be “paid forward.”
Typically, a home is purchased on a “fee simple” basis. You own the home, the land it sits on, and are free to do with it what you will – within the limits of local zoning and building regulations. One of the most important benefits of this form of ownership is that the owner is entitled to all profits upon the sale of the home.
There isn’t anything about the building at 2021-2025 NE Rodney to indicate it is unconventional, but there is. It is the way the current owners financed its purchase for an affordable price and how that good fortune will be “paid forward.”
Previous editions of the Eliot News have discussed Portland’s new, and novel, Residential Infill Project (RIP). On paper, it changes the zoning code to allow “higher” density development on what we normally consider single-family lots and associated neighborhoods. The objective is to address the “missing middle” of housing options between single-family homes and large apartment blocks by mixing other multi-family dwelling types amongst single-family homes. Two of the obvious examples of this are Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and “flag” lots, both of which incorporate new dwelling units on a single lot.
The State and Regional governments renewed their commitment to the community destroying I-5 project by accepting the Transportation Department’s (ODOT) Environmental Assessment (EA). To recap, ODOT, with the support of State leaders, intends to increase travel lanes in the Rose Quarter to eliminate the current lane-change bottleneck. ODOT has tried to justify a project likely to cost a Billion dollars (!) for multiple reasons but has settled on “accident prevention.” In so doing it can claim the additional lanes will not increase traffic volumes or speeds. What it will do is make it easier for truck traffic from Lower Albina to merge onto I-5 and for all trucks to switch lanes to and from I-84 and I-405. In other words, they claim commuters won’t benefit from time savings but lane changers will have fewer accidents. Most of these claims have been either proven false or dependent on false assumptions.
Residents on Eliot’s eastern edge have noticed the City recently installed “traffic calming devices (speed bumps)” on NE Seventh. This is a result of the Transportation Commissioner’s rejection of the designation of NE Seventh as a Neighborhood Greenway in favor of NE 9th, despite the fact that route is blocked by Irvington Park, where bike riding on park paths is prohibited, and the direct connection of 7th to the new bike bridge over I-84 by Lloyd Center. For those new to the area, Eliot has demanded traffic calming measures along Seventh for over 40 years due to the dangers presented to children accessing Irvington School, Tubman School and park, and Dishman Center. At that time (the 1980s), Eliot was home to a many minority families and lower income residents. Instead, the City put a higher priority on traffic calming measures on Irvington streets (15th and Knott) to benefit a predominately upper-class neighborhood. Much of the traffic on Seventh in Eliot is from Irvington. Nevertheless, I am glad the City has concluded that 40 years is long enough to delay desperately needed safety improvements for Eliot’s children, parents, and increasing number of seniors. So far, the bumps are doing little to slow SUVs, pickups, and landscape companies, but sedan drivers are taking notice and will hopefully slow the rest (although I still see people passing “too slow” drivers!). And, a word of caution, speeding between bumps and then breaking is the worst thing you can do for your car, so just slow to 20, or switch to MLK where speed limits are higher.
Recent development in Eliot has had two notable impacts on the area. The first is construction of large apartment blocks. The second is the flourishing of new cafes, bars, and restaurants in small storefronts. The big question in my mind is what will happen to these in the immediate, as well as long term future? Effort to allow bar and restaurant service in adjacent parking lots and sidewalks this summer is a necessary first step, but unlikely to be sufficient to preserve all of them. Will the storefronts left behind by those that close just be boarded up, returning Williams/Vancouver and MLK to the way it looked prior to these developments? Will residents in those multistory apartment blocks relocate to lower density rental properties where they have fewer contacts with strangers and high-touch surfaces? Will folks who are allowed to continue working from home relocate, either to larger accommodations (2-bedroom units from 1 or studios) or leave the city altogether? Any of these trends would change the character of Eliot as we have known it.
Some other trends that are likely to persist include the reduced travel to work, for those who can, and for shopping as well as general avoidance of malls and theaters where strangers are thrown together (undermining the need to widen I-5). Will this be the end of the Lloyd Center? Its plan to become an “event center” seems especially poorly timed now, especially with the future of some of its tenants, (Lloyd Cinemas, Macy’s) unclear. And what of the Blazers? The Rose Quarter is already one of the smallest NBA venues. Can the Blazers tolerate having only half the seats available for sale? And, what about the large conventions needed to support the Convention Center and new hotel? Perhaps the transition may be more “business as usual,” than a new normal governed by social distancing and mask-wearing with few risks for a rebirth of the pandemic. Somehow, I doubt it.
Board Co-Chair Wilson’s heartfelt article in the last issue encouraged me to provide more perspective on his, and our neighborhood’s, experience with gentrification. Docks, railyards, and industries in Lower Eliot (now Lower Albina) provided jobs and Upper Albina (now Eliot’s residential area) provided housing for successions of groups seeking either, or both, refuge and a better life. The last wave was former, mostly black, shipyard workers fleeing the Vanport flood, many of whom were welcomed into the homes of former co-workers living in N/NE Portland. The lack of jobs and redlining stranded many of these in crowded, dilapidated homes. These conditions were a good fit for City leaders to looking for ways to stimulate economic development through “urban renewal.” The resulting renewal efforts and their impacts are well known; the Rose Quarter, PPS’s Blanchard Building, and Emanuel Hospital expansion. What is less recognized is the role Portland’s comprehensive planning and zoning practices played in facilitating gentrification.
State land use practice is controlled by Senate Bill 100 adopted in 1973 that was designed to slow urban sprawl. SB 100 required each county to develop, implement, and maintain plans and associated zoning that accommodates expected economic and population growth within an urban growth boundary (UGB). Industrial and residential development outside the UGB is severely limited. The expectation then, and now, is that future growth within the UGB will require increased density; smaller lots, multi-family buildings, and in-fill development.
Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Portland’s housing was predominately single-family, owner-occupied (roughly 65%) with the balance rental homes and apartments. The situation in Eliot was exactly the opposite; 65% rental and 35% resident-owned but in mostly single-family homes. Our population was equally distinct being one of the City’s most diverse and poorest. Although counties adopted land use plans based on long-range projections of population and economic growth, there was little of either during Oregon’s recession of the 1980s. The metro region’s population projection at the end of the recession was for an additional 1 million residents by 2040, of which Portland agreed to house at least half. To do so, it needed to change land use plans and zoning to squeeze those people into existing neighborhoods. Neighborhoods with a majority of homeowners naturally opposed any density increases in their neighborhoods. Consequently, City staff looked for poor, less well connected and organized neighborhoods to dump that density. Eliot loomed large as a target.
Controversy over the plan to dump density in inner N/NE neighborhoods forced the City to couch this change in the Albina Community Plan, adopted in 1993. The Plan paid lip service to the preservation of existing historic and affordable housing stock: however, the Housing Goal was to add 3,000 housing units by “increasing density … and increasing infill,” which it did by rezoning single-family lots for multifamily development. The Plan suggested new units would be constructed on vacant and under-developed lots; however, many of those lots were (and still are) vacant because of pollution and ownership questions making it impractical to repurpose them. Rezoning a home for potential multifamily use makes it more difficult to get a mortgage to purchase or rehabilitate a single-family home. As a result, the Albina Plan laid the foundation for gentrification through the conversion of older, but affordable, single-family homes to multifamily developments including townhomes and apartments, and a few McMansions.
The Plan also included an infill overlay to facilitate “granny flats,” which enabled two dwelling units on one, single-family home site. This encouraged the further loss of single-family homes and an increase in rental apartments. The Albina Plan was superseded by the new NE Quadrant Plan within the new Comprehensive Plan in 2016. Active engagement by the Eliot Neighborhood Land Use Committee resulted in zoning changes that concentrate increased density along Broadway, MLK, and Williams/Vancouver along with changes to residential zoning. This was intended to reduce pressure to demolish Eliot’s remaining, older homes. Unfortunately, after the plan was adopted the City changed the definitions of the new residential zones increasing pressure to convert lots with single-family lots into multifamily developments. In these days of heightened awareness of racial bias in institutional decisions, it is easy to conclude the zoning changes in Eliot were at least tainted by racism. That is difficult to conclude because the changes hide behind “policies” rather than individual decisions. Nevertheless, it is obvious white and wealthy neighborhoods avoided density dumping. Regardless, the City continues to assign blame for gentrification to the developers it enabled rather than acknowledging its role in that process. At a minimum, this reflects the City’s racial tone-deafness. One recent example of this is its “right to return” program that encouraged black residents to return to city-supported housing in Eliot. As several black leaders pointed out, this reinforces the public perception that Portland’s black population “belongs” in inner N/NE rather than in other, whiter neighborhoods. Another example is the proposal to put “lids” over the expanded I-5 freeway to “reconnect” the neighborhood. This ignores both the history of that area and its geography. I-5 in Eliot wasn’t carved out of a former residential area, it is below a bluff that is part of the Willamette River flood plain. In fact, as designed, the lid in Eliot will be primarily an overpass that is designed to connect truck traffic between Lower Albina and our residential areas via Hancock. In other words, it is a benefit for the trucking industry (as is the widening project itself) not the Eliot neighborhood or its residents, past or present. Hopefully, a new Council and the new racial awareness will finally result in policies that do not continue policies harming our community, starting with stopping the I-5 freeway expansion and, ideally, attacking vehicle pollution from the freeway and the rail and trucking industries in Lower Albina.
My wife and I have provided rental housing in Eliot ever since we moved here 40 plus years ago. Our intent then, as now, was to preserve Eliot’s older buildings threatened with demolition by developers who were, at best, clueless about the neighborhood’s origins and history. One of these homes was at 19 NE Morris that was graced with a mature walnut tree that spread its branches across four adjacent properties. We bought that property to protect the tree as the lot was zoned for multi-family units and was about to be sold to a developer. After almost 30 years the house finally got to the point that it wasn’t economic to repair it and replacement required multiple units by code, so the house couldn’t be saved. To save the tree, we were able to reduce the zoning code required number of new units from 6 to 4, which also allowed for a design like the adjacent townhomes (instead of the typical flat-roof modern box design).
I was Chair or a member of the Eliot Land Use Committee for multiple years. A common complaint we heard from neighbors was that new development typically resulted in contractors blocking parking and sidewalks for months on end, which is a great inconvenience in Eliot. I vowed to reduce neighbor conflict like this to a minimum by using construction methods that were faster than conventional “stick framing” that requires large numbers of workers. This led to the selection of cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels that are quickly erected with a crane. Eliot has a couple of multi-story CLT buildings so the technique isn’t new, but the use of CLTs for a smaller building was new, mostly because it is more expensive than conventional stick framing. I thought the trade-off between construction speed and cost was worth it to avoid the prolonged inconvenience of neighbors.
The process for our project was simple in concept. Provide a concrete slab foundation for the CLT panels, erect the panels using a crane, and finish construction using conventional contractors for electrical, plumbing, finish, etc. The concrete was poured at the end of October. The panels came from Austria, which has decades of experience with CLTs; consequently, they are better quality and less expensive than locally made ones, even with the shipping. Plus, they meet the higher European standards for chemicals in the glue and the sustainability of the wood. They arrived in November. Erection was scheduled for mid- to late-December but waiting until after Christmas was favored by the construction crews. Unfortunately, that was just about the last dry period we had for construction!
Part of the street was closed to public parking as was the sidewalk for two weeks starting January 21st. The first panels were lifted into place by a very large mobile crane on the 22nd. Panels continued to be installed for two more days and the crew got a couple of workdays to play catch up. The crane returned the 28th and the final panel was placed at 4 PM the 29th. Five days to erect the building shell and only two weeks of parking restrictions. Unfortunately, the Park Department’s required “tree protection zone” around the lone street tree will keep the sidewalk closed for the duration of construction. The roof trusses were installed in the first week of February, so the building shell was essentially complete in three, very rainy, weeks! The shell was ready for siding and roofing the first week of March. Finishing construction will take a while longer to coordinate among the different building trades. The result will be four, new 2-bedroom townhomes in place of the original 2-bedroom home.
This is the second article on current property tax issues, continuing the article in the Eliot Neighborhood News Spring issue. The first warned of potential changes to property taxes by the current state legislature. At the time, there were several legislators arguing inner N/NE properties were under-taxed and should be reassessed to increase tax payments. This was a consequence of Measure 50, a citizen initiative to cap the rate of property tax increases passed in 1997. It appears that won’t happen. More on that in a bit, but Eliot hasn’t dodged the tax increase bullet.
The other way Multnomah County can extract more taxes from a property in Eliot is selective reassessment. I stopped a County Assessor inspecting homes on my street about a month ago. He said the County was “updating its records.” While the Assessor has an obligation to keep accurate records, doing so on a selective basis — say focusing on Eliot because it is “under-assessed” — strikes me as inequitable. While Measure 50 caps the basis for real market value (RMV), it allows reassessment for new construction and other improvements. Generally, reassessment is triggered by building permits; however, self-constructed improvements are included. Adding a deck is an example and was one item of interest to this assessor (among others). He also volunteered that the County was implementing a “pilot” project to see how many improvements since 1997 were missing from their records. Of course, any improvements that were noted would result in reassessment and higher taxes. Geographically targeted reassessments are concerning enough, but I heard another story that was more disturbing. Several years ago a friend had a house built on her spare lot, like many others with their ADUs, It was permitted and assessed at the time. Recently she received a property tax bill for 5-years of under-assessment. She was told the County hadn’t adjusted her property value at the time and was collecting for the previous 5-years at the corrected rate, a bill over $25,000!
The lesson for all of us in Eliot is that the County apparently has targeted our area for selective increases in assessed value and higher taxes. I noted this as a “worst-case” for property tax collections, but one that is pressing because governments can’t increase taxes as much as they want because of Measure 50. To recap, property taxes are currently based on County assessment of the value of the land and improvements on it, typically a house. The tax rate for both is the same, so the total tax is based on the combination of land and improvements. Measure 50 fixed the local property tax rate to 0.015% of market value and limited annual increases to 3%. The assessed value was indexed to 90% of 1996-7 RMV. As a review of the book Survival Math on page 5 of this issue indicates, Albina in the 1990s was wracked with drugs, prostitution, and gang warfare resulting in reduced property values. Using a real-world example, in 1997 a small house in Eliot had an RMV of $50,000 and taxes set at $750 (other fees brought the total to $1,000). Thanks to Measure 50, that house is now assessed $94,000 and total taxes at $2,400. Without Measure 50, the RMV would be $430,000 and the taxes roughly four times higher!
The previous article noted that if the state legislature did void Measure 50, it would cause all properties to be revalued and the actual tax change somewhat less than four times, so long as the total amount of tax collections was the same as today. For example, if all properties were assessed at twice the current value, the actual tax would be the same as today – to prevent a windfall of tax payments to area governments. However, not all properties have increased at the same rate. Eliot’s values DID increase faster than some parts of the city, such as neighborhoods to the east and far south. As a result, Eliot tax payments would still increase more than many other neighborhoods.
The legislature did not void Measure 50, and it’s possible it can’t because it was a citizen initiative, which may require a public vote to change. What the legislature did instead, with the urging of many governments and social and environmental groups, was offer a proposal of a study of different ways of assessing taxes, one based only on land value; the value of improvements would not be reflected in the tax rate. In other words, a small, 1909 cottage in Eliot would be assessed at the same rate as the recently built McMansion next door. This tax scheme is called land value taxation. A bill (SB 702) to study it as a replacement for current property taxes has passed the Oregon Senate. It calls for a study next year, presumably to be used during the next Legislative session in 2021. The bill notes that the purpose of this study IS to find ways to increase revenues from property taxes, meaning higher property taxes regardless.
I don’t believe the Eliot News has ever printed a book review; however, Mitchell Jackson is a product of the neighborhood (raised in King) and the book is a memoir about growing up in Albina.
The recently published book, Survival Math, reminded me of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Blue Highways, although was not well written. All three are male confessionals with significant philosophical, literary, and psychological digressions from the authors’ troubled, male perspective. Zen and Highways use interstate travel as a frame, while Math’s frame is Inner N/NE Portland and Vancouver and places of significance to the author and others in his circle of friends and relatives during the 1980-2000 era.
I am not drawn to memoirs, but Mitchell’s interview on OPB piqued my curiosity. I moved to Eliot in the late 1970s, about the time Mitchell was born. His recollections of life in Albina are consistent with my own. In contrast to a current myth being promoted, Albina in the 1960-2000 period was not Wakanda on the Willamette, but the locus for “prostitution”, drugs, and gang shootings and murders. This lawlessness was tolerated, perhaps even encouraged, to confine it to Albina and protect the rest of the (largely white) city. Mitchell describes his role in this mayhem. Although he was a bit player, he was imprisoned for multiple years. He talks about drug dealing, “pimping”, and “gangbanging” from the inside with as much honesty as he can without, I suspect, confessing to additional offenses. His digressions include history lessons on slavery, the origins of Portland gangs, and the night life of Portland’s Black underworld. He also explores the philosophical and psychological roots for his and his community’s behavior rooted in America’s systemic racism and paternalism. He takes responsibility for the disruption he caused, including about 60 pages of reflection on his abuse of women.
This book is an important contribution to the history of Albina and of Portland. The community he describes was one of struggling families and choices made to survive in the face of an establishment that either ignored or actively targeted it. It isn’t a complete history because it is a personal narrative. Although he comments on the contributions the Rose Quarter, I-5, Emanuel, and Blanchard projects made to dissolution of the Black community in Albina formed after the Vanport flood. It doesn’t cover the decline of Union/MLK in the 1960s and 70s and its subsequent home for prostitution and heroin dealing. He did not experience that history. The local narrative ends when Mitchell leaves for school and his career as a professor and author in New York.
Periodically Mitchell returns to Portland. During a recent book tour he visited his old neighborhood during his interview on OPB. He was asked about the obvious transformation since his life there. I was stuck by his response. Rather than bemoaning what was lost, he compared it to the transformation of the largely German/ Northern European community by the Black population that moved to Albina in the late 1940s and 50s. In other words, he described the change as a normal part of urban development. He also noted it was obviously much safer than in his day, and that was a positive development. He did recognize some of his neighbors but added many from his former life are likely dead or in jail, a sobering vision of Albina as it really was.
The earlier column “Taxed to Death? – Part 1 of 2” provided some history for how Eliot finds itself at the center of a policy debate about inequitable property tax payments by residents in newly “gentrified” areas and potential risks to us/them presented by some Legislative discussions. There was fear at the time the Legislature would make changes that would radically increase taxes in Eliot. That is not likely in this legislative session, but there is a proposal to revise how property taxes are levied that may have that result. The proposal hasn’t passed and just calls for a study to set the stage for that change. Because it hasn’t passed, Part 2 of “Taxed to Death” is postponed for now. Instead, this column provides a summary of the current assessment process. It also responds to a number of questions that have been asked about the prior column.
The State Department of Revenue is responsible for ensuring uniform taxation of properties in the state, although actual taxes are levied and collected at the county level. The guidelines for all counties are similar. Properties are assessed at “real market value” (RMV) using a common set of guidelines for property assessment; however, these are subject to adjustments by each county to reflect actual market conditions. That includes applying different criteria in different neighborhoods and in rural versus urban areas to capture market price trends. Property assessments are to be complete by September 25th each year and bills sent a month later. The tax year runs from July to July. The tax bill you receive in October is based on the Assessor’s estimate of RMV as of January 1st. So, if the Assessor calculated RMV for your neighborhood and your house in April, they adjust that value to what they believe it would have been on January 1. That establishes the RMV and for the tax bill in October. For structures without any modifications, “improvements” in tax language, this method is used for all comparable properties. A different method is used if improvements have been made after the previous tax year. As noted in the prior column, the property taxes that are due are subject to a tax cap established by Measure 50 in 1997, which was a Constitutional amendment and can’t be changed without a public vote. Measure 50 essentially froze the “tax assessed value” at the RMV in 1997, plus an allowed inflation adjustment. Properties that pre-date 1997 have their value (but not their taxes) capped as of 1997. The county is still required to reassess the RMV every year, it just can’t use the current RMV to calculate the tax bill, with one exception; if there are newly constructed “improvements.” New construction IS assessed at RMV; however, Measure 50 limits the “tax assessed value” to a fraction of that, roughly 60%.
There are two situations where a tax reassessment may occur. The first is when improvements are made to an existing structure, such as a new deck. The other is when a wholly new structure is added to an existing property. In the case of the new deck, the assessor estimates how much the new deck adds to the RMV and increases the value of the existing building by that amount. For example, assume your house has an RMV at $200,000 and the deck is estimated to add $50,000 to that. You will be taxed for an improvement of $50,000. Where this gets tricky is when the “assessed value” for tax purposed is wildly different than the RMV; namely, homes built prior to Measure 50. In that case, the “tax assessed value” of the existing home may be $50,000, in which case the new deck would increase it. Assuming a Measure 50 cap of 60%, to $80,000 and nearly double the amount of taxes owed. The same is true for a wholly new structure, such as an ADU.
For new construction, the assessor will probably use a “cost” method to calculate the RMV. In other words, how much it cost to build the structure rather than its market value. The state provides cost guidance so this estimate is uniform across all new structures (with local cost adjustments). Returning to the example above, if a new ADU valued at $200,000 is added to the property instead of the $50,000 deck, the new assessed value will be $170,000 ($50,000 for the Measure 50 assessed value of the existing building plus 60% of the new $200,000 ADU; another $120,000). The new tax bill will be over 3 times the previous bill.
New construction presents a taxation challenge to both the assessor and the taxpayer; you. Recall that assessed values are based on the situation on January 1st. If construction began in June, there would be no improvements as of January 1, since construction hadn’t begun. So your October tax bill wouldn’t reflect the new addition. If the ADU is completed within the calendar year, its value would be added in the next year, and show up in the tax bill in the next October, over a year after construction began. If construction takes 12-months or is spread across two years, this process also extends two years. In that case, the assessed value during first July-to-July tax year is based on the value of the structure as it was on January 1 of the next calendar year. For a project started in June, that would be what was completed over the 6 previous months; an amount less than the value of the finished project. Assuming it is only 50% complete, the new assessed value would be half the value of the completed project. In our example, that would be $100,000 (of the $200,000 total cost) and would be reflected in the October tax bill the year after construction started. Once the project is finished, the value the would be assessed at the full $200,000, but that wouldn’t show up until the next calendar year’s tax bill, because it won’t be until that tax year that the project will be complete as of January 1st. This lag in tax billing surprises many taxpayers as the see jumps in their taxes over multiple years; nothing in the year construction begins, a jump in the next year when construction is complete, and then yet another jump a year after the project finished. This last adjustment usually catches people by surprise.
Assessors monitor improvements to existing structures and land through building permits, site visits, record checks, and notices from the population, say a neighbor. Untaxed improvements, called “omitted records,” result when discrepancies are found between the assessor’s records and field inspections. This can happen when construction was done without permits; however, all construction doesn’t require permits. It can also happen through errors in communication of construction activity between permit authorities and the county and mistakes in the assessment. In those cases, the assessor has the right to reassess RMV for the 5 prior tax years. When that occurs, the taxpayer is sent a notice that provides 20-days to correct an erroneous record. A corrected assessment, including a bill for the 5-years owed, will follow. The taxpayer has a limited time to appeal the assessment, as it can for any tax bill. One problem with property taxation is that it is unlike income or sales taxes. We are used to the income tax process where we self-report our income and taxes and the IRS is responsible for any audits and tax adjustments after the fact. In the case of property taxes, the Assessor sets the tax amount and the property owner is responsible for verifying it is correct, and appealing if they feel it is not. In other words, property owners play the role of “tax auditor” to the assessor, which is just the reverse of what we know from income taxes.
By Mike Warwick
It’s winter, a time for holiday cards and, less welcome, property tax bills. This time next year you may look back fondly at your tax bill as the Governor, Speaker of the House, and legislators from Beaverton and Hood River have all indicated they want to revisit our property tax system. Their public justification is that “gentrification” has resulted in “those homeowners” not “paying their fair share.” Of course, “gentrification” is a code word for homeowners in inner N/NE Portland; namely, us. To see how this might affect you and your neighbors, look at the difference between the “assessed value” and “market value” of your home. “Reform” will likely reset assessed value to market value so the difference (currently about 4 times for an older Eliot home), is how much taxes could increase; 400%!
By Mike Warwick
Being a senior citizen leads me to avoid risky behavior. I was never a skateboarder and my few attempts at rollerblading ended in scrapes and torn trousers. The idea of balancing on a narrow, two-wheeled platform that moved seemed insane. However, the recent favorable report about Portland’s scooter trial forced me to accept a neighbor’s invitation to test drive one. Like many residents, I begrudge riders on sidewalks, scooters blocking sidewalks, and worse, blocking curb cuts for strollers and wheelchairs. However, the report indicated users surveyed believe these could address the “last mile” problem keeping more city residents from using mass transit or their personal vehicle. So, time to put myself at risk to determine the truth for myself.